Another Florida School Board Sued over Concealing Gender Identity Counseling from Parents

The Clay County School Board is being sued by parents that allege school officials hid their 12-year-old daughter’s mental health and gender identity issues for months – only informing them after the child attempted suicide in the school bathroom on two separate occasions. Clay County is located just southwest of Jacksonville.

The father said he was alerted on Jan. 5 that his daughter attempted to commit suicide on campus.

The complaint states that when the child’s parents had arrived at the school, the child was being placed into the back of a police car to be transported to a hospital for involuntary examination under Florida’s “Baker Act” law. The Baker Act allows law enforcement and certain health officials to initiate a mental health examination in the event a person is an imminent risk to herself or others based on apparent mental illness.

School officials allegedly defended their actions by invoking “confidentiality rules” to justify not including the parents in the counseling sessions.

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Florida School Boards Association Denies Bias, Teams Up with ‘Equality Florida’ to Promote LGBT Policies in Classroom

Group of kids playing with a rainbow parachute cloth in a field

As debates rage across the country over gender issues in schools, Florida school officials with the Florida School Board Association (FSBA) have teamed up with a left-wing progressive group to develop policies that determine how controversial issues will be addressed in the classroom.

Often times these discussions take place outside of official school meetings but involve elected officials.

The group, Equality Florida, is a left-wing political advocacy group that advocates for civil rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBQT+) residents in Florida. The group has successfully developed a network of connections among school officials that facilitates the promotion of their views in school operations.

One of the methods used by Equality Florida to influence policy at schools is the “All Together Now Conference” (ATN). Equality Florida states that ATN provides “dynamic programming that includes sessions such as a superintendent’s roundtable discussion, family acceptance panels, GSA workshops, and legal expert testimonials.”

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Florida Petition Signature Fraud Reported Amid DeSantis Election Security Proposal

As political partisans weigh-in against Governor DeSantis’ election security proposal which calls for an election oversight police force, recent reports indicate the presence of petition signature fraud in at least six Florida counties related to a gambling petition drive.

The election security proposal by DeSantis would put in place a special police force to help regulate state elections. The Office of Election Crimes and Security would be created in the Department of State. The proposal seeks approximately $6 million to hire 52 people to enforce election laws.

Critics note that the law could be used to intimidate voters.

“My number one concern is that this is going to be used as a tool to harass or intimidate civic-engagement organizations and voters,” said Jonathan Diaz, a voting rights lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center.

One state legislator pointed out the new office is not needed since Florida has had no issues during recent elections.

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Florida Dem Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Fried’s Distracted Pot Mogul Fiancé, Jake Bergmann, Totals Car, Mailbox; No Charges Filed

The fiancé of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried – Jake Bergmann – was distracted when on September 15, 2021 he drove his 2019 Ram 1500 Longhorn across the center-line of a two-lane road in northeast Tallahassee, destroying a neighbor’s $1,500 brick mailbox, according to a traffic crash report obtained by The Florida Capital Star.

The report indicated that debris from the crash was scattered west to east approximately 30 yards and the Ram truck was inoperable and towed from the scene. The photo of the vehicle after the incident shows massive damage to the front of the truck and, consistent with the police report, indicates that the air bags in the front seat were deployed.

The Florida Capital Star obtained documents related to the disposition of the truck which indicate that the vehicle was valued at $56,753 with a repair cost of $44,392.

The law enforcement official at the scene did not issue a ticket, charge or sanction Bergmann, the former CEO of Surterra Wellness.

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Florida’s Revenue Collections Continue to Exceed Expectations

The latest General Revenue (GR) report  – released last Thursday – from the Florida Department of Revenue shows that revenue collections continue to exceed expectations. The November numbers continues a series of monthly reports of higher-than-projected revenues.

The report comes ahead of the 2022 Florida legislative session which begins in January and is good news for lawmakers, in part, because general revenue plays a critical role in determining the state budget.

In addition, the November jobs report revealed Florida’s job growth was six times faster than the nation

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Uncertainty Surrounds Distribution Status of FDA Fully Approved Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida

A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), responding to an inquiry by The Florida Capital Star related to COVID vaccines, said he was unsure if any of the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) fully approved COVID vaccine -Comirnaty – was being distributed in Florida. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Comirnaty in August.

The FDOH spokesperson said he was aware of the continued use of the experimental version of the Pfizer vaccine.

Though Pfizer has shipped Comirnaty to the European Union, the vaccine’s availability in the U.S. is unclear.

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Federal Judge in Florida Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors

A Tampa federal judge on Wednesday backed Florida’s request to block a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for federal contractors.

U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday issued a 38-page decision in response to a request by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody for a preliminary injunction against the requirement.

Merryday ruled that Florida had demonstrated a “likely irreparable harm to sovereign interests absent a stay” due to the federal guidance requiring a vaccination requirement that is prohibited in Sections 112.0441 and 308.00317, Florida Statutes.

After the ruling, Moody stated, “Proud to secure an injunction in our case to stop @JoeBiden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. Floridians should not have to choose b/w the vaccine & their careers. There is still a lot of fight left in us & we will continue to push back against unlawful fed overreach.”

Governor Ron DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw cited a quote from the ruling on her Twitter account: “The absence of evidence…suggests a ruse, a mere contrivance, superficially attempting to justify a sweeping, invasive, and unprecedented public health requirement imposed unilaterally by President Biden.”

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Leon County Supervisor of Elections Verifies Seven Felons Voted in 2020

Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Mark Earley, told The Florida Capital Star that he has begun the process of removing seven felons from the Leon County voter registration system. Earley noted that all seven voted in the 2020 general election.

The voters were discovered by a private citizen who forwarded 12 names to Earley’s office. Earley told The Florida Capital Star that after research by his office it was determined that seven of the voters were convicted sex offenders and should not have been allowed to register to vote. Earley said further research is needed to determine the fate of the other four names.

Earley said that his office takes all input from citizens seriously and in this case there were problems with several registered voters.

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Florida Department of Education Begins Website Review Based on Florida Capital Star Report

Based on a report by the Florida Capital Star, the Florida Department of Education (DOE) has initiated a review of all links on the FDOE website “to make sure information is relevant, current, and appropriate.”

A report by the Florida Capital Star found that there were external links on the FDOE webpage related to bullying that redirected users to left-wing advocacy groups promoting controversial gender policies. After the report, FDOE officials took down the webpage.

Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried criticized the DeSantis administration for FDOE taking down the webpage. Fried said the move was dangerous for students.

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Florida Department of Education Takes Down Web Page with External Links to LGBTQ Advocacy Groups

After The Florida Capital Star sought comment from officials about a web page with hyper-links to LGBTQ advocacy groups on the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) website, the web page was removed.

FDOE officials told The Florida Capital Star that the content on the web page was under review.

The Florida Capital Star also found that at least one Florida school district was using the presence of the resources on the FDOE web page as justification for certain LGBTQ school activities.

When asked to provide the school policies that support advocacy of LGBTQ issues in middle schools, the Leon County School District provided a link to the FDOE web page with the external links  to LGBTQ advocacy groups.

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Florida Mom: ‘Gender Ideology Almost Destroyed My Family’

January Littlejohn knew there was a problem when she picked up her daughter at Deer Lake Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida one September afternoon last year. Her daughter revealed she was interviewed by school officials about gender preference issues. She was asked by officials about changing her name and also about which restroom she preferred to use.

Littlejohn, who is a mother of three children and a licensed mental health counselor, was shocked. Shocked at the fact that the meeting took place without her knowledge.

She had previously informed school officials about the family situation. Her daughter was experiencing stress about her gender at the height of the pandemic and the family was completely caught by surprise. The family found a counselor and began researching the issue.

And now school officials had intervened between her and her daughter over a very personal issue.

She would later explain in a speech to the Florida Family Policy Council how “gender ideology almost destroyed my family.”

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Federal Judge Rules Against Sports Betting Agreement with Seminole Tribe

Sports Book Betting

Late Monday, U.S District Judge Dabney Friedrich ruled the deal allows online sports betting through the Seminole Tribe violates the federal law that regulates gambling on tribal lands.

Governor DeSantis and the Seminole Tribe of Florida celebrated the approval of the historic Seminole Gaming Compact in August after a 45-day review of the agreement was completed by the U.S. Department of Interior. The agreement included online sports betting that took place off of tribal lands but was processed on tribal property.

“The final approval of this historic gaming compact is a big deal for the State of Florida,” said Governor DeSantis in the release. “This mutually-beneficial agreement will grow our economy, expand tourism and recreation and provide billions in new revenue to benefit Floridians. I again want to thank Seminole Tribe of Florida Chairman Marcellus Osceola Jr., Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls for their part in getting this done for our great state.”

However, Friedrich ruled that the deal violates the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, or IGRA. The IGRA requires gambling activity take place on tribal lands. Friedrich wrote that, “over a dozen provisions in IGRA regulate gaming on ‘Indian lands,’ and none regulate gaming in another location.”

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Federal Judge Denies Florida’s Motion on Vaccine Mandates

In an 11-page order released on Saturday, U.S District Judge M. Casey Rodgers rejected Florida’s motion to block a Biden administration rule that requires workers at hospitals and other health-care related facilities be vaccinated against COVID.

The decision was is response to a motion filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody seeking a preliminary injunction against the federal rule which takes effect Dec. 6.

Moody’s argument contended that the requirement would increase health-care staffing shortages. However, Judge Rodgers concluded that Florida had shown “irreparable harm” to justify an injunction.

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Conservative Commentator Ben Shapiro Speaks at Florida State University

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro spoke to a full house of approximately 1,500 students at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center Exhibition Hall on Florida State University’s (FSU) campus Monday night. The FSU College Democrats had requested that university officials cancel the event.

Shapiro is the host of the Ben Shapiro Show and is also the editor emeritus for The Daily Wire. He is the former editor-at-large of Breitbart News.

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Florida News Headline on the Number of Child Vaccine Doses Ordered Misses the Mark

Young girl with a blue shirt on getting a vaccine

A headline in the Tampa Bay Times last week said that “Florida ordered 90,000 child vaccine doses. Texas ordered 1 million.” However, a reading of the story reveals the headline does not match the facts included in the article.

The headline appeared to be written to imply Florida did not order enough vaccine doses for children relative to other states, like Texas and California. The first paragraph of the story continues this narrative. The writers note, the 90,000 doses are “enough to fully vaccinate 3 percent of Florida’s approximately 1.7 million children ages 5 to 11.”

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Florida School Districts Drop Mask Mandates, End Legal Challenges

As the recent COVID wave in Florida recedes, all school districts that previously enforced mask mandates in Florida have dropped their masks requirements.  In addition, a number of school districts that chose to challenge the Department of Health (DOH) rule that banned mask mandates have decided to end their legal challenges to the rule.

Back in October, the Leon County School District – home to the state capitol –  ended a mask mandate policy with a parental opt-out provision. The decision came after the district was found to be violating the DOH rule.

Following the Leon County decision, the Broward County School District voted to remove its mask mandates for all school levels effective November 20th.

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DeSantis: Florida Republicans Overtake Democrats in Voter Registration

Ron DeSantis speaks on bad policy with the national government

This past Friday, in a speech at the National Conference of State Legislatures, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that Republicans have surpassed Democrats in Florida voter registration numbers for the first time in the state’s history.

“Today, and it’ll probably be fully publicized very soon, today for the first time in the history of Florida we’ve now overtaken Democrats,” DeSantis said. “There are more registered Republicans in Florida than Democrats.”

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City of Tallahassee Backs Abortion Resolution, Critical of ‘Anti-Abortion Pregnancy Centers’

An abortion resolution is on the October 28th Tallahassee City Commission agenda after being pulled from the agenda of a previous meeting. The resolution supports abortion rights and is critical of abortion restrictions and pregnancy centers.

The text of the resolution is provided below.

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Florida Family Files Federal Lawsuit Against School Board over Gender Policy

On Monday, the Child & Parental Rights Campaign, Inc. filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Florida on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Littlejohn against the Leon County School Board (LCSB) related to the Board’s gender policy. The defendants also include Superintendent Rocky Hanna and Dr. Kathleen Rodgers.

The suit alleges that the LCSB ignored the Littlejohn’s parental rights relating to their daughter’s gender confusion by concealing from them actions taken by school officials.

Child and Parental Rights Campaign, Inc. (CPR-C) is a non-partisan, non-profit public interest law firm whose mission is to defend parental rights and protect children’s well-being against the impacts of gender identity ideology.

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Florida Middle School Teachers Encouraged Not to Share Student Conversations on Gender/Sexuality Issues with Parents

Emails show that the sponsor of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club at Montford Middle School – located in Tallahassee, Florida – advised a teacher that they were not obligated to share information from students related to gender/sexuality issues with their parents.

Stacy Thompson, the media specialist at Montford and GSA sponsor, was asked a question by a teacher after Thompson sought out volunteers to post “Safe Place” flags in Montford classrooms.

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DeSantis Announces $5.8 Million Grant for Glades Technical College

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced more than $5.8 million in Florida Job Growth Grant Funds to support the opening of  iTECH Glades Technical College in Moore Haven, a new location of Immokalee Technical College.

“When I took office, I asked DEO to focus on finding ways to support and invest in our rural communities – today, they delivered,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud to award $5.8 million through the Governor’s Job Growth Grant Fund to create a new technical college campus in Moore Haven.”

The new iTECH Glades campus in Moore Haven will serve an area that does not have any post-secondary training programs within 30 miles. The $5.8 million award will cover five years of startup costs for the technical college and will allow the campus to offer 12 career training programs. Workforce training will be offered in high-demand fields such as HVAC, diesel systems, accounting, nursing, welding and healthcare, and will be available to Floridians in Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee and Collier counties.

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Leon County Government Terminates 14 Employees Due to Vaccine Mandate

At the end of Friday, October 1, 14 Leon County government employees were terminated from their positions due to non-compliance with Leon County’s vaccine mandate.

In July, Leon County Administrator Vince Long notified all Leon County government employees that vaccinations against COVID-19 would become a condition of employment with the county, citing a “resurgence” of the virus in the county. According to the communication, all County employees were required to get vaccinated by October 1.

The employee notification stated:

“Today, as vaccinations stagnate and the delta variant has created a resurgence of the COVID 19 virus with the state of Florida at its epicenter, vaccinations against COVID 19 will now become a condition of employment at Leon County Government for new and existing employees under the supervision of the County Administrator and the County Attorney.”

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Says Washington Dysfunction Hurting Florida Transportation Projects

In a press release on Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis called attention to the impacts congressional inaction and dysfunction are beginning to have on transportation projects in Florida.

“Yet again, the delays in Washington are impacting the lives of Floridians,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “It is unacceptable that Congress or the Biden Administration would use highway construction as a bargaining chip and leave Florida taxpayers to foot the bill. This is even more proof that the Democrats in leadership don’t want to help people, they don’t want to get anything done, they just want to follow a political agenda.”

And DeSantis is not alone in his criticism.

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DeSantis Administration Responds to Leon County Vaccination Mandate

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) has responded to the reminder letters sent this week by Leon County Government informing employees that without proof of a COVID vaccination they would be terminated on October 4, 2021.

In response to Leon County’s communication, the letter from FDOH Division Director David Woodlief to County Administrator Vince Long seeks information about those impacted by Leon County’s vaccine mandate policy.

Specifically, FDOH is seeking the names of employees that received the letters and the names of employees who submitted documentation as proof of vaccination.

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Florida’s Unemployment Rate Falls, Remains Below National Rate

Florida’s unemployment rate fell to 5.0 percent in August, down 0.1 percent from the July reported rate of 5.1 percent.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced Florida has experienced 16 consecutive months of job growth, gaining 19,400 private sector jobs over the month. In total, Florida has gained 990,400 jobs since April 2020.

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida’s unemployment rate is decreasing,” said Secretary Dane Eagle of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “This positive sign shows that Floridians are returning to work and Florida’s economy continues to provide opportunities for meaningful employment. I look forward to working with Floridians to continue these economic successes.”

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Scott Maddox, Former Tallahassee Mayor and Chair of Florida Democratic Party, Sentenced to Prison

On Wednesday U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle sentenced former Mayor and Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox to five years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to public corruption. Maddox was also the  head of the Florida Democratic Party in 2003.

Maddox business associate, Paige Carte-Smith, was sentenced to two years for her role in the corruption scheme.

Judge Hinkle said Maddox and Carter-Smith were entitled to sentences below federal guidelines due to assistance offered to federal officials. Federal sentencing guidelines called for 5-7 years for Maddox and Carter-Smith.

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Florida’s General Revenue Collections Above Pre-Pandemic Levels

On Friday, September 3rd, the Legislative Budget Commission accepted a report that indicated Florida’s general revenue collections are projected to be above the pre-pandemic forecasted levels for Fiscal Year 2021-22 and Fiscal Year 2022-23.

Also, revenue collections are expected to increase approximately four percent per year throughout the forecast period.

Speaking Friday at the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, House budget leader Jay Trumbull credited Florida’s swift reopening and a history of prudent budgeting for getting the state’s finances back on track — and even above pre-pandemic estimates. Trumbull, a Panama City Republican who is co-chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, said the report indicates “the state’s budget is in great shape.”

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Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson Officially Files for Agriculture Race

Senate President Wilton Simpson, a wealthy Republican from Pasco County whose business holdings include a large egg farm, filed paperwork Friday to run for state agriculture commissioner next year.

Based on his latest financial disclosure, Simpson is one of the wealthiest members in the Florida Legislature with a net worth of $31.5 million as of Dec. 31.

Simpson, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump earlier this year, is the highest profiled candidate to enter the race. Current Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, is running for governor.

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Florida School Board Member Advocates for Student Vaccine Incentives

During a special Leon County School Board (LCSB) meeting on Thursday, Board member Rosanne Wood initiated a discussion about vaccine incentives focused on Leon County School (LCS) employees and students. The initiative could provide a monetary incentive for employees and students to get vaccinated.

Board member Wood opened the discussion by stating, “since we are the educators of Leon County, we need to be doing a better job of educating our kids, parents, and our families of the importance of this vaccine…”

Wood mentioned that SAIL High School is holding a vaccine clinic and will be offering Starbucks gift cards and Amazon gift cards to students and employees who get vaccinated.

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Florida Board of Education Gives School Districts 48 Hours to Comply with Mask Order

The Florida Board of Education has notified officials at two school districts that they must comply with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning mask mandates within 48 hours or face financial penalties.

In a letter sent on Friday, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said both Broward County and Alachua County must comply with the order.

“It is important to remember that this issue is about ensuring local school board members, elected politicians, follow the law. These public officials have sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida. We cannot have government officials pick and choose what laws they want to follow,” Corcoran said in a statement.

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Florida Publishes Rules Related to Parents Rights, Mask Mandates in Schools

Amid the debate over mask mandates in schools, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) took steps to provide options to parents.

In a Friday press release, the Office of Governor Ron DeSantis stated that “the Florida Department of Health and State Board of Education issued Emergency Rules to protect parents’ freedom to choose what is best for their children. These rules are pursuant to Executive Order 21-175 and encourage a practical and effective in-person learning environment for Florida’s schoolchildren during the upcoming school year, while preventing the unnecessary removal of healthy students from school and safeguarding the rights of parents and their children.”

“When the wellbeing of our students and our constitutional freedoms are at stake, we will stand up for Florida families,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Giving parents options to make these decisions is not controversial. I’m proud that today we took action to make sure school administrators respect parents’ rights to make educational and healthcare decisions for their families. I will continue to fight to protect Florida’s families from government overreach and to preserve their God-given rights.”

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Federal Moratorium on Evictions Ends, Impact in Florida Unknown

A federal moratorium on evictions ended on Saturday night, giving landlords the ability to remove tenants who have not paid their rent.

In Florida, a Zillow forecast estimates that there are currently 144,220 households that rent their homes or apartments and may be at risk of getting evicted. This is 9,879 more than last month.   The analysis indicates 357,194 renter households in Florida are currently behind on rent, 48,969 less than in June.

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Florida Representative Anthony Sabatini Files E-Verify Bill

Florida state Representative Anthony Sabatini announced this week that he has filed a bill that will mandate the use of E-Verify by all public and private employers.

Sabatini tweeted, “JUST FILED my first Bill for the 2022 FL Legislative Session. HB 6001 will mandate the use of E-Verify in FL, requiring ALL workers prove that they are legal BEFORE they can work in our State. With 70% of all new illegals coming straight to Florida, we MUST pass this Bill!”

This is his fourth time that Sabatini has filed a bill related to E-Verify since he was elected to the Florida House in 2018.

E-Verify is a web-based system that allows enrolled employers to confirm the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. E-Verify employers verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching information provided by employees on the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

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Appeals Court Vacates Decision Requiring Vaccines for Florida Cruise Ship Industry

Cruise ship next to dock

The U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit on Friday vacated its recent decision that allowed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention to enforce its COVID-19 safety rules related to the Florida cruise ship industry.

Just before the decision, Florida asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene and reverse the appeals court’s decision.

“I’m glad to see the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reverse its prior decision and free the cruise lines from unlawful CDC mandates, which effectively mothballed the industry for more than a year,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “The importance of this case extends beyond the cruise industry. From here on out a federal bureau will be on thin legal and constitutional ice if and when it attempts to exercise such sweeping authority that is not explicitly delineated by law.”

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Florida Congressman Byron Donalds Slams Critical Race Theory

Byron Donalds

  U.S. Representative Byron Donalds, from Florida’s 19th congressional district, recently slammed Critical Race Theory in an opinion article from a very personal perspective. Donalds, who is African-American, has a White wife and biracial children. Donalds, like many other critics of CRT, views the movement as tool of the left…

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Governor DeSantis Trails Florida Cabinet Members in Net Worth

Recently filed financial disclosure forms filed by state-wide elected leaders show that the net worth of Florida Governor Ron Desantis is significantly less than Florida’s three cabinet members.

The financial disclosure forms, known as Form 6, are required to be filed annually by state elected officials and some state employees. The forms were due to the Florida Commission on Ethics by July 1, 2021.

Desantis reported a 2020 net worth of $348,832 on his Form 6 filed on June 20, 2021. This is up 16.5% from the $291,449 reported for 2019.

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Report: Charlie Crist Used Condo Repeal Bill to ‘Woo’ Democratic Voters

A report from 2010 indicates that then Governor Charlie Crist signed a condo repeal bill, which is now being investigated for playing a role in the Surfside condo collapse, to “woo” democratic voters in his race for the U.S Senate.

The report, published in the Palm Beach Post on June 25th, 2010, stated that “Gov. Charlie Crist was on the photo-op express Thursday signing the same bill three times in a two-hour period.”

The bill, SB 1196, was sold as a way to “help distressed condominium associations” during a down real estate market by repealing certain regulations that were put in place in 2008.

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Florida COVID Cases Up, Deaths Continue to Decrease

The latest state reports show that Florida COVID cases and the positivity rate increased during the week ending July 1st. Also, hospitalizations remained the same, while deaths continue to decrease.

The state reported 15,978 cases during the week ending July 1st, compared to 11,807 cases for the week ending June 25th. The increase follows a consistent downward trend since the state reported approximately 37,000 cases for the April 23rd week. New cases reached a low during the June 11th week with 10,459.

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DraftKings and FanDuel Back Amendment to Allow Sports Betting in Florida

Two of the largest companies in the daily fantasy sports industry, DraftKings and FanDuel, are backing a political committee’s efforts to legalize sports betting. The political committee, Florida Education Champions, is proposing an amendment that will allow sports betting at professional sports venues, pari-mutual facilities and through online platforms. The amendment would also raise money for education.

The amendment, as detailed on the Division of Elections website, states that if betting revenues are taxed, the monies would be required to go to the state Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.

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Florida Gas Prices Up 48 Percent over Last 12 Months

According to publicly available data, average gas prices in Florida have increased approximately 48.0% over the last 12 months. The current price of a gallon of regular gas, as of June 20, was $2.96. This is up from $2.00 per gallon reported one year ago.

The chart below shows the 12-months trend of average gas prices for the United States and Florida. Since March 11, 2021, the average price of gas in Florida has trended below the national average. As of June 20, the U.S. average is $3.07 per gallon.

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Nikki Fried Amends Financial Disclosure Ahead of Campaign Announcement

For the second time in less than two years Nikki Fried – the current Florida Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate – has amended her 2018 financial disclosure form filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The latest amendment, filed on May 28, 2021, comes just days before she officially announced she would be running for governor.

The amendment relates to her gross income in part D of the form. Fried changed the amount of income she received from Igniting Florida to $351,480.

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Florida State University President Search Cut to Three

The Florida State University

The Florida State University president search has been cut to three candidates as the university’s presidential search committee decided to focus on traditional candidates after two days of interviews.

Making the list were Richard McCullough, Harvard University’s vice president for research; Robert Blouin, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s executive vice chancellor and provost; and Dr. Giovanni Piedimonte, Tulane University’s vice president for research and a professor of pediatrics at its medical school.

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Florida Residential Home Sales Up, Inventory Shrinks

homes

Data released by the Florida Realtors shows that the number of single-family residential home sales (78,353) increased 23.1% in the first quarter of 2021 when compared to the number of homes sold (65,602) in first quarter in 2020.

The increase continues a hot resale market which began during the third quarter of 2020 with a 13.7% increase followed by a 23.6% in forth quarter of 2020.

Prices also saw double digit increases during the first quarter of 2021. The median price increased 17.6% to $317,500 in 2021 from $270,000 in 2020. Also, the average price increased 31.7% to $481,591 in 2021 from $365,765 in 2020.

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Florida State University Narrows List of Presidential Candidates

Florida State University

The Florida State University Presidential Search Committee met Friday to discuss applicants for the President’s position and narrowed the list. The committee has invited nine individuals to interview with the committee. In-person interviews with the selected candidates will take place May 14-15, 2021, at the Augustus B. Turnbull Florida State Conference Center.

The Committee announced the interviews and meetings will continue to be livestreamed. For those who wish to attend in person, plans have been made to offer very limited seating. The agenda will include public comment. Once the search firm has finalized the interview schedule, it will be made available.

Following first-round interviews with the FSU Presidential Search Advisory Committee on May 14-15, the committee anticipates hosting a series of open candidate forums for faculty, staff and students during the week of May 17.

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Governor DeSantis Signs Bill Raising Smoking, Vaping Age

Jackie Toledo

On Friday, Governor DeSantis signed a bill that will establish a regulatory framework for the sale of electronic cigarettes. The bill (SB 1080), which will take effect Oct. 1, will also raise the state’s legal age to vape and smoke tobacco to 21. In 2019, Congress passed legislation raising the federal age limit to 21.

House sponsor Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, said during the debate over the bill that it is aimed at preventing minors from using electronic cigarettes.

“This bill is necessary to stop youth vaping,” Toledo said. “This legislation is a step in the right direction, demonstrating Florida’s commitment to work with regulators and stakeholders to combat underage use.”

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New Ballot Initiative Law Challenged in Federal Court

One day after Governor DeSantis signed a bill related to ballot initiatives, a federal lawsuit was filed on Saturday seeking to have the new law ruled invalid.

The new law limits individual contributions to groups promoting ballot initiatives to $3,000. The limit is in effect until the Florida Supreme Court approves the placement of an initiative on the ballot. In Florida, voters can change the constitution by getting proposals approved for the ballot and then receiving over 60-percent of support during an election.

Republicans who supported the legislation, argued it was needed to keep special interest money from influencing the initiatives that voters see on the ballot.

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Florida’s First Black Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Hatchett, Dies at 88

The Florida Supreme Court announced on Saturday that former Florida Supreme Court Justice Joseph W. Hatchett died in Tallahassee on Friday, April 30, 2021 at age 88.

Hatchett became the first African American to serve on Florida’s highest court when he was appointed by Governor Reubin Askew in 1975. Hatchett was Florida’s 65th Justice since statehood was granted in 1845.

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Florida Police Related Shooting Deaths Up 52 Percent in 2020

People rioting

In a year that saw a social justice movement, a pandemic, and an increase in violent crime, police relating shooting deaths in Florida in 2020 were up 51.5 % when compared to the previous five years. In contrast, police related shootings nationwide were up just 3.4%.

The numbers come from the Washington Post police related shooting database which began logging information in 2015. The data shows that from 2015 to 2019 Florida averaged approximately 61.4 police related shooting deaths per year. In 2020, there were 93 police related shooting deaths, a 51.5% increase.

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Florida Bill Allows Students Athletes to Profit Beginning in July

In the waning moments of the 2021 Florida legislative session, elected officials amended a bill (SB 1028) that will allow college and university athletes to profit from their names and images beginning July 1, 2021.

On Wednesday lawmakers added a provision that would have pushed back the effective date of the name, image and likeness law until 2022 due to concerns with the NCAA.

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Two Florida Cities Consider Guaranteed Income Policies

Lauren Poe

The guaranteed income movement – which advocates for providing cash to low-income families with no restrictions on how they can spend it – is coming to Florida.

This year the Gainesville City Commission voted to implement a guaranteed income pilot program slated to begin in October. Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe has been part of a national initiative, “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income,” to supply monthly, direct cash payments to people who are struggling. The Gainesville pilot program would begin by giving cash to people with criminal records and who are looking to rehabilitate their lives.

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